A career in parks and recreation seemed a natural path for Jeff Leatherman as parks and recreation have always been a part of his life. Growing up in Truckee, Calif., he was attending summer camps from the time he was 6 months old. He shared that his father was a youth pastor and teacher and his mother was also a teacher, so he and his brother spent summers at summer camp.
Leatherman said, “I had the luxury and the privilege of growing up in the mountains, just outside Lake Tahoe, with everything I could want right in my backyard — and that transitioned to a love of the business of recreation.” His first job was parking cars at the ski slope so he could earn his ski pass, and from there, he taught skiing and became a lifeguard. His first official paid position was as a lifeguard at age 15. He said he had a couple of great mentors, who were in the recreation profession, when he was in high school and they “turned me onto the recreation industry as a lifestyle.”
He graduated and went to southern California to attend California State University at Chico, Calif., and graduated with a degree in recreation administration with an emphasis in community and commercial recreation and a minor in marketing.
After graduation, he got a job as a general manager for a lake and marina operation at one of the newest reservoirs in California that opened in 2003 around the time he took over.
He and his wife and four young sons moved to Roswell, and he said not only was it a great opportunity for him, but they moved into “a great community, great neighborhood with great schools — it’s been a good transition.”
The biggest challenge facing Leatherman’s department probably is “how to continue to optimize facilities that reflect diversity and the community’s needs and values and also how to maintain those facilities for the next generations.” “That’s always the challenge — balancing maintenance dollars versus operational budget,” he said, adding parks and recreation departments “are one of the few municipal services where (residents) choose to participate in what we do. We’ve found the right niche that should be serving the community and is reflective of those values, and as communities change, we need to be nimble enough to make those changes.”